Does your child constantly think about food and weight? Engaged in emotional eating? Eats when he is not hungry? Or Does not eat at all ?
Am I Fat? This is the worst fear of the new generation, specially the teenage girl. While the older generation looks at weight control from the health point of view, this is a worry that plagues the average teenager from a more cosmetic viewpoint. Senior citizens reminisce nostalgically about the good old days when women had some flesh on their bones. Grandmothers are horrified by their scrawny grandchildren who say that " Thin is in ".
From size zero Kareena to hottie Bipasha , be it sizzling Priyanka or smokey Rani now everyone is in the same run. Girls from well educated families who do well at school appear to be more at risk of developing an eating disorder. Doctors and nutritionists say " Thin is not in. Size-zero bodies a la Kareena Kapoor may look good on Page 3 and entertainment colour spreads, but they are pushing Indian women towards excessive dieting, and what's more, being 'un Indian'."
This modern obsession with body weight when taken to an extreme can lead to the development of " Eating disorders " like anorexia nervosa, bulimia and compulsive over-eating. A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food than usual, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spirals out of control.
Eating disorders do not seem to manifest as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia in non- Western cultures like India, but occur infrequently in milder forms with fewer symptoms.Interestingly in Hong Kong and India, one of the fundamental characteristics of anorexia nervosa is lacking. In these countries, anorexia is not accompanied by a "fear of fatness" or a desire to be thin; instead, anorexic individuals in these countries have been reported to be motivated by the desire to fast for religious purposes or by eccentric nutritional ideas.
Anorexia: Starvation is not the answer
Anorexia nervosa found in 19th century it is the willful pursuit of thinness through self-starvation. Adolescents are most often affected by this disorder. People who have this disorder are really prisoners of their mind. They have a distorted perception of their body, seeing themselves as obese while in reality they are quite thin. The fear of putting on weight gnaws at them constantly. They are obsessive about losing weight, starving themselves to the point of emaciation. Anorexics are fixated on food. Anorexics are usually perfectionists and tend to have low self-esteem. They are often depressed because they cannot meet the high standards that they set for themselves.
According to some studies, people with anorexia are up to ten times more likely to die as a result of their illness compared to those without the disorder. The most common complications that lead to death are cardiac arrest, and electrolyte and fluid imbalances.
Besides unnatural weight loss patients can have coexisting psychiatric and physical illnesses, including depression, anxiety, obsessive behavior, substance abuse, cardiovascular, neurological complications, cessation of menstruation, constipation, discolouration of skin and the growth of fine body hair and impaired physical development.
Bulimia Nervosa : The binge-purge syndrome
Bulimia nervosa first identified in 1979 is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.
“I remember in high school, when it started, I was on the track. I ran a lot, and I ate a lot, compulsively at times, tons of ice cream, or fruit, or lots of cookies and sweets. I tried to make myself throw up once afterwards, but couldn’t because I have too strong a gag reflex. Instead, feeling guilty, I exercised constantly." remembers Avanti ( name changed) once patient of bulimia.
They often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week.
The pattern of binge and purge can result in ulcers, gastric and dental problems, acute disturbances in the chemical balances of the blood which could lead to heart attacks, sore throats, aching joints, and feelings of weakness, dizziness and apathy.
What goes for girl goes for the boy
Although eating disorders primarily affect women and girls, boys and men are also vulnerable. One in four preadolescent cases of anorexia occurs in boys.
“Of all my anorexic patients, about 10 per cent are male,” says Dr Sakshi Chawla, senior dietician, Fortis.Like females who have eating disorders, males with the illness have a warped sense of body image. Nutritionist Dr Shikha Sharma says "Men develop eating disorders in their mid- to late-teens. Sometimes, though, the condition gets out of control and the patient is unable to get himself out of it."
Boys with eating disorders exhibit the same types of emotional, physical and behavioral signs and symptoms as girls, but for a variety of reasons, boys are less likely to be diagnosed with what is often considered a stereotypically "female" disorder say the doctors.
The most effective treatment for an eating disorder is psychotherapy or psychological counseling, along with medical and nutritional support and guidance. The treatment should be individually tailored. Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the disorder and the client's particular problems, needs, and strengths.There are a variety of treatment options available: individual therapy, group therapy, nutritional support, psychiatric care, outpatient, inpatient, residential, etc. Please know that there are resources available to assist you and your loved ones.
But it is always good to avoid a situation to such an extreme remember anorexia is just a plea for attention and bulimia is just an addiction to food , parents should keep a close eye on a child's daily intake of food and avoid conveying an attitude which says in effect, “I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, fit into smaller clothes, etc.” Decide what you can do and what you can stop doing to reduce the teasing, criticism, blaming, staring, etc. that reinforce the idea that larger or fatter is “bad” and smaller or thinner is “good.”
Discuss with your sons and daughters (a) the dangers of trying to alter one’s body shape through dieting, (b) the value of moderate exercise for health, and (c) the importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals consumed at least three times a day.
“It takes a very long time for a person to completely recover from an eating disorder. So, if you feel that you suffer from it, you should seek help immediately, as an eating disorder can be extremely harmful and life threatening,” says Dr Chawla.
Infusing confidence and trust over one's own body is the best way to keep eating disorders out.